Southwest is raising liquor prices just in time for the holidays, Marriott is making more hotels honor elite breakfast benefits and Jeff Goldblum reviews travel gadgets. All that and more in this week’s Saturday Selection, our weekly round-up of interesting tidbits from around the interwebs (links to each article are embedded in the titles).
Over the years, those of us that travel a lot will come upon many gadgets that claim to improve our on-the-go packing, hygiene, jet lag or pretty much any other travel concern. My first week-long trip to the UK when I was a teenager saw my 50lb+ backpack stuffed with several hardcover books, an English road atlas, a collapsible lantern, two neck pillows, a water filter and multiple quick-dry towels. At least I got a workout. These days, I travel a little lighter, but I still enjoy looking at the new travel gadgets that seem to constantly pop up on the scene. The folks at Wired review quite a few of these contraptions and they’re fun to read and watch…but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do these reviews better than Jeff Goldblum. Last year, as a Wired “guest correspondent, ” Goldblum reviewed five different gadgets, including a mini-vacuum, a portable translator and a solar-powered, inflatable lantern. I hadn’t seen it until a friend sent it to me last week. It’s consumer advocacy at its finest, even if he is a little confused about how Amazon reviews work.
Rubik’s cube. Kryptos. What really happened to Jimmy Hoffa? These puzzles have bewitched and baffled modern mankind. But, none of them hold a candle to the vagaries of the Marriott Breakfast benefit table. This nonsensical flight of whimsy masquerading as a guide to benefits feels like something cooked up as a cautionary tale to frighten children and traveling businesspeople, squelching any hope that breakfast might be included with their room rate. After having waded through this maze of brand exclusions, $10 credits and club lounge closure exemptions, you might finally have the confidence to walk boldly up to the front desk of the Renaissance Boston Waterfront and declare, “I’m a Platinum member. I’d like my free breakfast, please.” But you’d be out of luck. Incredibly, Marriott’s impenetrable list of breakfast benefits across its 322 or so brands wasn’t complex enough. There’s actually an additional list of 19 “legacy” properties within the United States that get a hall pass from having to provide elite members breakfast. Instead, they just have to give you 1,000 Bonvoy points. That is, until June 30th, 2024. The original sleuths of rewards programs terms and conditions, Loyalty Lobby, has discovered that the exemptions for these 19 properties will expire at the stroke of midnight that very day. Come 6am on July 1st, the croissant comeuppance will finally arrive.
“Per your account agreement, we can close your account for any reason at any time.” When a bank decides that they don’t like you, most likely because your activity looks like a money-laundering drug dealer or terrorist, they can decide to shut you down. This usually involves closing one or all of your accounts with no notice, often freezing your money and then leaving you waiting for news about how and when to access your funds. These shutdowns are growing more common and, in the process of trying to inhibit the financial activity of unsavory characters, increasing amounts of innocent bystanders are getting caught in the spokes. Usually, they don’t having any idea of what they did to cause it…and worse, the banks won’t tell them. This can be a particular risk for folks in the world of points and miles, particularly those involved in manufactured spending. “Last year, banks…tagged categories like suspicious checks, concern over the source of the funds and transactions with no apparent economic, business or lawful purpose most often.” Sound familiar? In reality, most garden-variety MSers are probably not going to have a high enough volume of odd transactions to pique the curiosity of the AI authorities. But, it does happen. That’s one of the reasons why we advise folks to try and keep the accounts that they use for manufactured spending separate from their important, personal accounts. For anyone dabbling in MS, it’s worth reading this excellent report from the New York Times.
A lot of folks are ambivalent about the holidays. Kids oscillate between manic and grumpy from constantly eating piles of sugar and, for many of us, the sun sets before we even leave the office. Spending time with relatives that we haven’t seen all year is succor for some, the relational version of Chinese water torture for others. In recent years, the mass “hiccups” in travel have only added to the stress, kind of like getting caught in the old movie, “Planes, Tranes and Automobiles.” Then, You’re finally on the way, after being stuck in the airport with a delayed flight. Your fellow passengers are tired and angry. Doesn’t a relaxing drink sound nice? Southwest thinks so too. That’s why they’re raising booze prices on all their flights, just in time for holiday travel. Miller Lite’s going up 17%, wine gets a 25% hike and the the price of a mini bottle of whiskey will rise by a staggering 29%. It’s not all bad news, though.
Scrooge Southwest also confirmed that, despite the higher cost, it will still gladly sell each passenger two drinks at a time. And, if you’re flying Southwest during the holidays, you’ll probably needed both of them.
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